What Exactly is Music Therapy?

When we look at music, it is clear that its scope and range are wide and far reaching. Music in itself can be considered an art form, as art is a method of communication and expression. In every song, in every lyric is some message that is conveyed. As one musician once put it, “All music has a message, though that message may not be something we want to hear.” Similarly, all art has a message, though we may not want to receive, or we simply interpret it differently.

But specifically, I want to focus on music as therapy, and how we can relate it to art’s use as a therapy.

Art is the foundation for our existence. And music is a direct extension of how we as humans use art as expression and healing. Many people listen to music to relax, though the genre varies greatly from person to person. I enjoy the classic jazz and blues era of the 1940s and 1950s, but music is most definitely not one size fits all.

I imagine that when people equate music and healing, they think of calm, soothing sounds – maybe best enjoyed in the evening, after a long workday. Actually, I know several individuals who use music as a sleep aid. Many people are familiar with the Bose sound system infomercials – they advertise their amazing sound quality products, almost always with nature sounds or classical music playing throughout. I was recently introduced to NatureSpace, which is quite an interesting listen. With NatureSpace, the listener is introduced to a completely different sound; using sounds you would typically hear in nature such as waves crashing and birds chirping. But what makes this site unique is the concept of creating a 3-D listening experience.

More than sounds

Music is much more than just a surface-level therapy. Music therapy is a real profession and involves complex layers of study and research that services individuals with very real diseases.

The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by credentialed professionals who have completed an approved music therapy program.”

People use music as a form of therapy for mental and physical diseases. An excellent article, Music Therapists Help Ease Treatment Of Children With Severe Burns, examines one aspect of the use and effects of music therapy. The article paints a vivid picture of child burn victims, most with burns over more than 50 percent of their bodies, and how music therapists accompany occupational therapists during treatment to ease the tension and pain level. This story also highlights how music can not only distract the brain away from pain, but actually decrease the mind’s awareness of pain in the body.

There are so many different ways that music touches and heals us. And it’s such an interesting branch of art in how it shapes and identifies the human existence. Music is essential to life. Everyone goes through some sort of pain, hurt or tragedy – and music will always be present to dry every tear and heal every wound.

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